Hong Kong postpones legislative elections over coronavirus fears

Hong Kong will postpone legislative elections due to be held in September because of the coronavirus outbreak, the city’s leader said Friday.

In a news conference, Hong Kong’s Chief Executive Carrie Lam said the move to postpone the Legislative Council elections, slated for September 6, was the most difficult decision she had made in the last seven months. She added that she had the support of the Chinese central government in making this decision.

Lam said the delay was needed to protect public health and guarantee fairness in the election.

Infections from the virus have quickly risen in recent weeks, after falling to zero daily transmissions in June, and health officials have warned of a potential crisis if it is not brought under control.

Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam said elections planned for September would be postponed because of the coronavirus.

But pro-democracy figures had greeted news of a possible delay to the key polls with dismay, accusing the government of wanting to avoid a potential loss following China’s imposition of a new national security law on the city, banning secession, subversion, terrorism and collusion with foreign forces.

Opposition parties had aimed to ride a wave of discontent with the government to a historic victory in the semi-democratic legislature, where just under half the seats are controlled by so-called functional constituencies, which represent business and society groups and are typically pro government.

A recent primary election designed to narrow down the number of pro-democracy opposition candidates attracted more than 600,000 votes, far more than the 170,000 or so organizers were hoping for. The turnout attracted the ire of Beijing, however, which suggested the vote was illegally interfering with the upcoming poll.

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